Push to rename national parks to reflect Indigenous heritage, not colonial history

Elka Wood20 June 2020
View of cliffs, surf and Boyd's Tower in Ben Boyd National Park.

Boyd’s Tower, south of Eden in Ben Boyd National Park. Photo: Sapphire Coast Tourism.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s remark on 11 June that Australia was “a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery”, in response to Black Lives Matter protests across the country – which he apologised for afterwards – has been followed by a push in some parts of the community to reconsider the names of popular NSW South Coast landmarks.

Those arguing for name changes say that it’s time to stop rewarding the memory of early white settlers in Australia and explorers at places such as Ben Boyd National Park, Mount Kosciuszko and Mount Imlay.

Last year, it was suggested that Mount Kosciuszko be known by a dual Indigenous name, Kunama Namadgi, meaning snow and mountain in Ngarigo language. However, it has not been officially approved because the name is contentious with some Indigenous groups.

So what’s the thinking behind these calls?

Writer and naturalist John Blay, who has worked with Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council on documenting the Bundian Way, wrote in a social media post on Wednesday:

“Ben Boyd is celebrated in the name of national parks and towns in the region. There have been Aboriginal calls to rename the national parks and, for all we know, nothing’s been done. There has been terrible silence. Do we need to grant Ben Boyd our highest accolades and remembrance? He was the worst of exploiters and tried to enslave the Aboriginal people of Twofold Bay.”

Names have meaning, says Yuin man Graeme Moore, who, in his work with the Biamanga Board and his community, has advocated for a return to Aboriginal names for local landmarks.

“All our names have ripples of meaning and connectivity,” he said. “Take, for instance, Merimboola, or Merimbula as we now know it. It means place of the red belly black snake, but also has its roots in the bloodwood.”

Having a chunk of land named in honour of Ben Boyd, a Scottish grazier who lived until 1851 and was known for exploiting Indigenous Australians and Pacific Islanders for labour during his time in NSW reinforces that period of colonial history, he thinks.

“Naming a place gives an understanding of what’s there,” said Mr Moore. “Changing the name is about appreciating that there were people before Ben Boyd.”

Using Aboriginal place names in daily life helps young generations look at the past and to the future, he added.

“Names give us all an understanding of what’s there,” said Mr Moore. “It’s all there; the evidence is everywhere you look – all our special camps, our burials, you just have to know where to look or be respectfully shown.”

Merimbula resident Christine Garrison is supportive of the move to change the name of Ben Boyd National Park.

“We’ve all known the park by this name for so long and many of us have good memories associated with the name, but it’s time to change,” she said. “Ben Boyd is not someone we need to remember this way. If we all associate this beautiful place with an Indigenous name, it helps us all recall and respect the people who have lived there for thousands of years.”

John Blay spoke of Ben Boyd’s bitter end:

“The only poetic justice in all this is that on another exhibition to the Pacific Islands to round up more victims, he went ashore and was never seen again by the crew of his yacht. Is this a man we are proud of? I would happily see his name wiped off our maps. His infamy should only be kept alive in our history books to ensure none of his deplorable activities are ever repeated.”

Mr Moore said the north end of Ben Boyd National Park, across from the Pambula River mouth, is known as Toalla but there are different Indigenous names for different parts of the park, which could all go into the running when coming up with an appropriate Indigenous name for the park as a whole.

“The name is the beginning of your journey,” he said.

What's Your Opinion?

78 Responses to Push to rename national parks to reflect Indigenous heritage, not colonial history

SKye Etherington SKye Etherington 3:01 pm 27 Jun 20

Using indigenous names of place recognises the interconnection between us and the land, no matter what your skin colour.
It also keeps something alive that lives through language.
In Aotorarea / New Zealand, both Maori and white fella names are on all the signs. It seems a simple and appropriate thing to do to recognise the people who were here before colonisation. the time is now .

Denise JAMES Denise JAMES 3:37 pm 26 Jun 20

Change name, definitely. Ben Boyd should go and the sooner the better.

Clem Collier Clem Collier 9:37 am 26 Jun 20

Avery good respectful idea…

Clem Collier Clem Collier 9:34 am 26 Jun 20

Avery good respectful idea……but I doubt you will get the various indigenous groups to agree.

Jim Kubacki Jim Kubacki 9:26 am 22 Jun 20

To me it's just another way wiping history away with the renaming, ok have a name alongside showing the traditional folks, no reason there can't be both.

    Amanda Midlam Amanda Midlam 10:22 am 27 Jun 20

    Jim Kubacki yes there is a reason why it shouldn't be both. People don't understand that Ben Boyd was an embezzled and instigated the kidnapping and enslaving of islander people many years after slavery became illegal. He has Boydtown and Boyd's Tower named after him but he had nothing to do with the national park. Having his name on the park does not preserve history - it distorts it and gives the impression that he was worth the honour when anyone knowing the history knows clearly he wasn't. He was much hated in his time.

Belinda French Belinda French 5:05 pm 21 Jun 20

What is a name? If it is of significance to them then let them rename it. What does it mean to us? Try and respect other cultures and heritages. Stop the fighting and just be.

Don Bryson Don Bryson 12:25 pm 21 Jun 20

Its time to change names associated with the types of Ben Boyd. He does not require to be remembered in any way considering his total disregard to other peoples for his own rewards. I totally concur with the name Ben Boyd being erased from history. He has a major roadway in Neutral Bay which needs to be erased from our memories at the same time. Please persue this strongly with my complete support.

Meryl Dillon Meryl Dillon 11:14 am 21 Jun 20

They all should have an alternative Aboriginal name.

Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 10:07 am 21 Jun 20

Have a look at where the fires were in Victoria and forestry areas.

Yvonne Dalziel Yvonne Dalziel 9:42 am 21 Jun 20

Absolutely then rename the rivers and roads named after mass murderers

Katherine Davis Katherine Davis 6:14 pm 20 Jun 20

I believe this country cannot go forward without acknowledging and celebrating the first people who cared for this land prior to colonisation. I would love to see all places revert to their original names. It is not hard to relearn, it simply takes good will and the desire to be on the right side of history.

Wally Law Wally Law 5:41 pm 20 Jun 20

I recognise that the world was a different place 100 years ago and that is called history. We can knock down all the statues, rename the streets, parks, and states if you want - but that will not change history at all. Our ancestors committed great deeds and terrible deeds but in the end they committed deeds and that is history. We understand the hurt and the terrible deeds but they happened and that is history. Let's move on together arm in arm and share the history - not try and pretend that it never happened.

Faye Simpson Faye Simpson 5:31 pm 20 Jun 20

We would have to go right back to when the world was 1...and see who walked from where...

Peter Bond Peter Bond 5:01 pm 20 Jun 20

AND should we rename the tower.

Call it "Long Spear" after the shaft of light that saved ships.

No wonder they want it gone.

Craig Vipond Craig Vipond 2:40 pm 20 Jun 20

How about just start putting up statues of some of our Indigenous people next all the others. Respect all

    Peter Bond Peter Bond 8:18 pm 20 Jun 20

    Craig Vipond

    I'll run with that.

    Name a few Aborigines that have done a memorable act worthy of a statue.

    I have met many Aboriginals that have been outstanding people, but no great heros or pioneers.

    Craig Vipond Craig Vipond 8:20 pm 20 Jun 20

    Peter Bond Bonner etc. But what I'm getting at as well. I can't stand the lefties protesters damaging any monuments etc

Di Johnson Di Johnson 2:07 pm 20 Jun 20

Kim Ebbage, here’s one for Barney! He was saying this on Tuesday night

Stephen Grealy Stephen Grealy 1:02 pm 20 Jun 20

We need to learn more about environmental sustainable management techniques and societal dispute resolution from a culture that survived 60,000 years - using their language where we can is a good first step in that direction

Ralph Miller Ralph Miller 12:14 pm 20 Jun 20

Yes. Give back the names all those places had originally. Surely a minor concession considering the hurt, death and environmental vandalism caused by the Europeans during our comparatively short time on this island.

Sue Hargraves Sue Hargraves 10:54 am 20 Jun 20

Could we not use both names, Anglo and Indigenous?

Amanda Midlam Amanda Midlam 10:23 am 20 Jun 20

I do wonder why Steven Holmes is not in this story. He comes from a local Aboriginal family and has been wanting to change the name for a long time. His connections here are incredibly deep.

    Tricia Owen Tricia Owen 12:28 pm 20 Jun 20

    Amanda Midlam because a lot of places and media think local Aboriginal Land Council is the Traditional Custodians but they are not.

    Nor is Graham Moore.

    Tricia Owen Tricia Owen 12:29 pm 20 Jun 20

    Amanda Midlam as secretary for Thaua Country Aboriginal Corporation l have emailed about Regional in regards to this.

    Amanda Midlam Amanda Midlam 12:30 pm 20 Jun 20

    Tricia Owen the media should know better. I have a lot of respect for Graham Moore but of course traditional owners should be consulted

    Tricia Owen Tricia Owen 12:33 pm 20 Jun 20

    Amanda Midlam it just goes to show though that these others who speaks for and on Thaua Country are not following correct Aboriginal protocol.

    Which is that correct person for country should only speak for that country.

    The Government allows anyone to run land council as long as they live in the area but does not have to be a traditional owner.

    About Regional About Regional 9:47 am 21 Jun 20

    Tricia Owen thanks for your comments. We have replied to your email.